Flutter mobile application development has been drawing more and more attention year by year. Nowadays lots of businesses are still wondering whether this framework is worth their money. Another frequently asked question is what kind of technology is better to build mobile apps with: native or cross-platform.
For over 12 years, Surf has worked with businesses to develop mobile apps using native and cross-platform solutions. Today we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of cross-platform mobile development, and help you find out if Flutter is a great solution for your project.
Cross-platform Flutter development vs native mobile applications
The cross-platform principle is “write once, run everywhere” — a single set of code with minimal changes is used for creating both iOS and Android apps. So it is in Flutter mobile development as well.
Let’s find out the pros and cons of these technologies.
Cross-platform development: advantages
Utilization of a single codebase for different operating systems is significantly less time-consuming. In our experience, building a project with a cross-platform software development kit like Flutter takes 20-50% less time rather than creating native apps with the same functionalities.
A cross-platform team of 7 team members fills the place of 2 native ones with 9 developers in total. One team instead of two and a smaller team size means a significant decrease in a project’s final cost. Surf’s proven that dozens of times in practice.
Cross-platform app support is less complicated since identical code typically requires identical solutions for both OSes. Maintaining two separate native apps, in turn, is resource-intensive. Each platform will come with its own set of bugs and flaws, and the price of code maintenance will rise further as new versions of iOS and Android are released.
Cross-platform development: disadvantages
The performance of cross-platform apps varies greatly, depending on the technology used. For example, Cordova’s tech solution leads to poor performance of apps with heavy graphics and games. On the other hand, Flutter’s able to handle animation and multiple graphic elements almost as smoothly as native apps.
The release of new platform-specific functionality for cross-platform is somewhat delayed. However, it’s worth mentioning that implementing new features in native code also doesn’t happen overnight. It takes some time, because you have to prepare the code for it. So, in fact, this cross-platform drawback is not such a big deal, but you still should keep in mind.
How does Flutter work in mobile development?
The framework is powered by Dart programming language and offers plenty of possibilities for creating speedy and stylish apps. The app is built around widgets — specific code components. The appearance of widgets updates automatically adapting to the visual style of a platform the application is launched on. The framework uses a powerful graphic engine Skia that provides stable FPS even in apps with heavy animation.
Let’s take a look at some examples of apps built with Flutter and why it might be the framework of choice for your next project.
Flutter-powered mobile apps
It was developed with Flutter by the company’s in-house team. The app allows car owners to remotely check the amount of fuel in the tank or battery’s charge and the car’s location. If a car requires an oil change or other technical maintenance, you will promptly get a push notification. Also, some car models support Remote Services of My BMW app: locking and unlocking doors remotely and 3D-view of areas around the car.
Video Streaming Platform
It is a Video Streaming Platform built by Surf for a large YouTube publisher and production company with an audience of over 20 million users. Flutter ensured smooth UI animations and screen transitions, while the client was able to save about 40% of the initial budget compared to the development of two native apps.
Stadia is a gaming platform developed by Google. It allows users to stream and play video games on multiple devices. Thanks to cloud-based solutions, a user can start playing a game on their smartphone and seamlessly continue on the TV or desktop version. Also, Stadia allows you to start playing games right from the moment of purchase, simultaneously downloading and uploading files.
Why choose Flutter & Dart for mobile development
Although Dart is a relatively new programming language, it has won the hearts of thousands of developers. It performs nearly as well as native software, has a familiar for iOS and Android users look and feel, provides stability and security of your app. One of Dart’s outstanding features is that it uses a variety of compilers, transpilers and its own parser. This aspect saves developers and companies about half of typical native project creation time.
All of these specifics set the stage for the benefits of Flutter mobile app development. Let’s take a closer look at them.
As we said before, developing apps with cross-platform frameworks saves time and money, because there is essentially one app to be built for both iOS and Android devices. The framework takes things even further with the Hot Reload feature. It updates the Flutter mobile app instantly when its code gets changed — the developer can experiment and try different solutions without slowing down the process of refreshing the whole app.
Many tests show that such apps perform better than apps built with other cross-platform frameworks. Its ability to render big sceneries while maintaining a consistent >30 FPS is due to the powerful Skia graphic engine and the framework’s architecture. Direct communication with the platform’s blocks in native code leads to a low response time.
Flutter is more secure than other frameworks since its source code is compiled into native one. This feature makes the code unreadable to humans and complicates the reverse-engineering process. Also, it fully supports the integration of security features such as Touch ID and Face ID. These aspects, together with other benefits, make this solution a perfect fit for creating banking apps.
Manual testing is highly time-consuming and not as efficient as automated testing. Flutter allows to conduct the following types of such tests:
- Unit test — checks certain modules of a system such as method, function or class
- Widget test — to make sure each item works flawlessly
- End-to-end test — tests the entire system
They allow developers to quickly test the app back and forth, so that no bug will remain undetected resulting in a high-quality end product and a shorter total development time.
Flutter wins the battle with other similar frameworks, but loses to native applications. However, Google now has solutions to this problem, which can reduce app size by several times.
A relatively small number of libraries
The framework is still developing, and now there are almost 27 thousand libraries. They meet almost all business and community needs, but there are still some gaps. However, considering the framework’s quick improvement, we can reasonably expect the issue to be resolved shortly.
When to choose Flutter?
Summing up the features and advantages of Flutter, let’s see what kind of applications it’s best suited for.
- MVPs and prototypes. This really is a perfect match. Decreasing time-to-market is essential for startups in the fast-paced digital environment, and this framework can help deliver the working product to investors and customers as quickly as possible.
- Beautiful and smoothly working apps. This is a highly optimized framework with powerful Skia and Impeller graphic engines. You can be sure that almost any complex animations and visuals will be rendered flawlessly.
- Native looking apps. It handles the task of conveying a native look and feel perfectly. Although the framework doesn’t use native UI elements, it updates their appearance automatically to match the platform’s visual style and supports native scrolling, navigation and gestures.
Summing things up
Flutter is all about speed, convenience, performance and security. So far, it has been ahead of other cross-platform frameworks in most parameters. However, it falls a little short in performance and speed of getting updates of Android and iOS components to native solutions, but that’s not a big deal. Flutter perfectly copes with a variety of apps including complex ones — it’s proven by the case studies.
Surf has extensive competence developing native and cross-platform mobile apps. And we’re willing to help you build your next project.